By Marlene Kazman, LL.B.
Your child is contemplating separation and divorce from their spouse. How can you help? The first thing you can do to help is help, not hinder. If your child has bad feelings and resentment towards their spouse, that is their issue; not your issue to fight. If there are grandchildren involved, it is wise to remember that one day you may very much need to be on good terms with the spouse your child is divorcing. Here are some helpful Do’s and Dont’s:
Do be supportive of your child’s most significant decisions in life if you can. But don’t help your child to annihilate their ex. Nothing good can come of that. Once upon a time, your child stood up in public to declare their love for this person. Keep that in mind. Things change – that is the only constant we can bank on. If your child does not want to be married to their spouse anymore, so be it. However, that does not give you license to aid in the destruction of your son-in-law or your daughter-in-law (even if they aren’t your cup of tea).
Do you help your child pay for an experienced and accommodating family lawyer. A “good fit” with one’s legal counsel is essential. If your child needs help to pay a retainer and ongoing legal costs, do your best to help them. It is crucial to the process that experienced lawyers properly represent parties.
Don’t be a cheerleader. You can be a supportive and helpful parent to your child without trying to give your advice on an area of law (family law) that most people know nothing about. Family law is a complicated area of the law. It touches upon an enormous body of caselaw, over 30 different pieces of legislation (both provincial and federal), and a great deal of social science literature. All too often, I field questions from clients who have been incorrectly “told what the law says” by their cheerleaders. Don’t cheerlead by giving your own home-made “legal advice”.
Don’t shelter and hide assets for your child. That’s blatantly unfair. Family law is built on a process of open and accurate disclosure. The Supreme Court of Canada has described “non-disclosure as the cancer of family law”. In certain cases, our laws provide entitlement to support and property claims. Don’t subvert the law by helping your child look poor.
Don’t help your child alienate grandchildren from the other parent. Every child deserves to have a good relationship with both parents as long as it is in the child’s best interest. Even if you don’t like your son-in-law or daughter-in-law, that doesn’t mean it is not in your grandchild’s best interest to have a relationship with their two parents. Never bad-mouth the other parent within earshot of the children.
If any of this sounds familiar, the first step is a phone call. Contact Marlene Kazman at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 416-642-5416 (direct dial) for more information and an assessment of how she can assist you.
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